maandag 6 december 2010

The Dollhouse View

Yesterday was the 5th of December. That's the day that the Dutch people celebrate Sinterklaas (Or Sint Nicolaas, but that's a rather old fashioned name). In the evening families and friends gather around to treat themselves to hot cocoa and Dutch dainties such as speculaas, boterletter, marsepein and pepernoten. Meanwhile they wait in great expectation for a visit of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet to bring them presents. An alternative way to spend the evening is to give each other surprises (Dutch pronunciation: sur-pree-sus).
A surprise is a selfmade object with a hidden present inside. An all time favourite to give as a surprise is a modified ontbijtkoek, another Dutch delicacy. An ontbijtkoek is a kind of dark brown cake. To transform the ontbijtkoek into a surprise, you have to make an incision in the cake and put your present inside. Please make sure that your present isn't any bigger than the cake itself and is well wrapped in plastic to make this surprise a success. The next step is to moisturize the cake and mould it untill you'll have a long cylindrical shape. Because of the dark brown colour of the ontbijtkoek, it will look just like a gigantic turd. It's also very sticky because of the syrup that's used in the ingredients.
The lucky person who gets this surprise has to grab into this sticky moist turd with bare hands, in order to get the present out.
There's Dutch humour for you!

But I'm digressing. It was not my intention to write about silly Dutch customs. Still, to make it understandable for the non-Dutch readers of this weblog what the illustration below is all about, I have to tell you something more about Sinterklaas. I assume that most of you have at least heard of this white-bearded bloke dressed up as a bishop and might even have noticed some remarkable similarities with that other ditto-bearded chap named Santa Claus. However, there are some significant differences.
Like Santa Claus, Sinterklaas has his little helpers. Not elfs, but Zwarte Pieten. Santa Claus has his residence up the north pole, Sinterklaas lives in Spain. Each year, somewhere around the midst of November, he and his Zwarte Pieten travel to the lowlands by boat. In the night following on the day of their arrival, the Zwarte Pieten climb upon the roofs of the Dutch houses and lower themselves through the chimneys to deliver little presents for the children. Unlike Santa Claus, they don't put the presents in stockings that are hung upon the mantelshelf, but in the children's shoes that are standing before the stove. This ritual repeats itself on pakjesavond (presents' eve) on the 5th of December, but it's also possible that Sinterklaas will bring a personal visit, like I wrote above (well, that's the same with Santa Claus, isn't it?). Some children are blessed with a more frequent present delivery through the chimney, but that all depends on the financial status of the parents, really.
For transport Sinterklaas prefers to use a grey horse, rather than a reindeer sleigh. It is said that Sinterklaas also climbs upon the roofs with horse and all, but I don't believe he ever crawled through chimneys.

During their visit in the Netherlands, Sinterklaas and the Zwarte Pieten naturally have to find an accommodation to sleep, eat, drink and relax. So De Dubbelde Palmboom came up with the idea to lend their museum for that purpose (all fictional off course). Whilst Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten are on the job, children can visit the museum to see the rooms where these do-gooders have layed out their bivouac. The museum had asked me to make an illustration of this, to be used for a poster and a postcard.
For this I chose to make use of what I like to call the dollhouse view. I don't know if this is common known term, but looking at the illustration below, you'll immediately understand what I mean with this phrase.

At the top left of the "dollhouse", you see the room where the Zwarte Pieten have found their shelter. Right next to it is the bedroom suite of Sinterklaas. Underneath the room of Sinterklaas you find the place where de Zwarte Pieten wrap up the presents for the children and practice their climbing skills. On the lower left side you see the stable for the horse of Sinterklaas.
On top of the building Zwarte Pieten are busy climbing the roofs. They carry the presents in big gunny sacks, very much like Santa Claus does.
The tree and moon on the left are a hint to the classic Sinterklaas carol Zie de maan schijnt door de bomen (See how the moon shines through the trees).

I do like to draw dollhouse views. Therefore it may not surprise you that this was not the first time I used this kind of composition. My first dollhouse view was published on the 28th of June 1997. It was an illustration for the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. The subject was home education in the United States of America. It's a rather simple view with just one room, but I didn't need more rooms to illustrate what the story was about.

The next one was published on 2nd of October 2004 in the same newspaper. This time the story was about the rivalry between communication companies and KPN, a Dutch company which used to have a monopoly on communication.
Still just an one room view for the same reason as mentioned above.

Almost four years later (February 9, 2008) I made another dollhouse view, still for the same newspaper. This time it was a three room view. The illustration had to be about taxes you'll have to pay for almost everything. The blue-purple envelope is a bugaboo for Dutch citizens. It usually contains another assessment. When I look at this illustration, I always have to think of that song by the Fab Four: Taxman. Mind you, when Mister Harrison wrote this song, he had already earned more money than he could probably ever spend. It's a bit harsh that he should be the one to complain about taxes. Still a great song though!

Besides drawing dollhouse views, I also like to look at them.
Although I might have made up the phrase dollhouse view myself, I'm most certainly not the first one who made that kind of picture! Just look at this book made by the famous Richard Scarry (first published in 1964). Here's a man who really knew how to make a dollhouse view! If you also happen to have this book, please look at pages 10 and 11 (the Rabbit Family House). Alas, because of the size of the book it's not possible for me to scan this spread page, but - boy, oh, boy! - this must be the most superb dollhouse view I ever laid my eyes on!

Although not as outspoken as Richard Scarry, the front cover of Baby's House (first published 1950) made by the very talented Mary Blair should also be classified as a dollhouse view. The three visible rooms are rather small and Mary's approach is quite stylistic. On the other hand (probably not intented as such, but I wouldn't dare to claim that for a fact), looking at the proportions of Baby in comparison with the house, the building itself is - an enormous , true enough - doll house! Be it intended or not, the result is a beautiful picture indeed!

Sadly enough, these are the only two examples of dollhouse views I could find in my library. However, I know for sure there must be many, many other illustrations with this kind of view. If you would happen to know any that deserve to be brought to attention, please let me know. It would be my pleasure to dedicate another weblog to this phenomenon.

donderdag 18 november 2010

Batmobile part 2

I don't do as much work for Batmobile as I did in their heydays. Still, every now and then Batmobile still makes an appeal to my drawing skills, like the record sleeve I've made for the split album of Batmobile and Peter Pan Speedrock.

Most recently I made a design for a Batmobile bottle opener, which is for sale on the Batmobile Webshop.

Drummer Johnny Zuidhof, who's co-owner of the webshop, came up with the idea of this gadget when he had a look at the website of the Chinese company where he had previously ordered some custom made buttons and pins for Batmobile. He noticed that the company also manufactured bottle openers for ever so reasonable prices.
A sensible entrepreneur should be cautious about rash investments. You never know if a product will sell and you don't want to end up with an attic piled up with a dead stock of silly gadgets. However, with prices that affordable, Johnny thought is was worth a risk and so he asked me to fabricate something witty suitable for this bottle opener. As soon as I had finished my work, Johnny was ready to place his order with this company on the other end of the world. Luckily he was smart enough to double check on the manufacturing costs, but he still must have looked pretty blank when he got this reply:

"Sorry sir, prices on website not real prices. Prices on website are only to attract customers."

Unnecessary to say the deal was off. With a little effort Johnny was able to find another company on the internet (still Chinese though) that was willing to manufacture the Batmobile bottle opener - or Beermobile opener as Johnny prefers to call it - for a price more to his liking.

For those who don't like beer or any other refreshment that requires the use of a blottle opener; the character is also available on T-shirt as a three coloured silkscreen print.

Both items are obtainable on the Batmobile Webshop.

maandag 25 oktober 2010


Every now and then I'm asked to create a couple of buttons for the sympathetic one-man company Buzzworks. Early this year I've made a series of four buttons with deap sea fishes.

It's not the first time that I've used these peculiar animals as a source for inspiration, as you can see here.
Ever since my childhood years I have a keen interest in marine life, so that may explain my fascination with this topic a little bit.
I also do like to work in this decorative style, which I've been experimenting with now and then since my highschool graduation year in 1982, but on a more frequently basis and ever so more intensive since 1994. If you'll browse through the gallery of my website, you''ll come across more work I did in this manner. Like the cd cover of The Hills Are Alive with the Sound of Music and the Subzine cover or The Bremer Town Musicians and the Tropical Fish.
This particular style is rather influenced by the work of Juan Miró. One might even note a little twist of "De Stijl", although my use of swaggering lines would most certainly have induced utter repulsion upon the original Stijl artists.

The deep sea fishes on the buttons are extremely simplified and not realistic at all. Nevertheless, the ichthyologists among us will - without too much effort, I should think - recognize (from top to bottom): Photostomias guernei, Melanocetus cirrifer, Melanocetus johnsoni and Argyropelecus affinis.

Some years ago I also made a few other buttons for Buzzworks. They've nothing to do with fish, but might appeal to another intended audience.

A friend of mine, who's a great Tiki aficionado, had a remark about the Easter Island statue button. He pointed out that the name of such a statue was moai and not Aku Aku. The frase Aku Aku refers to the way the statues were supposedly moved, according to Thor Heyerdahl. He assumed that the moai were moved by swiveling them from side to side, very much like in a "walking" fashion. I must say, Mr. Heyerdahl sure gave the most beautiful exotic name for just some sort of movement! You'll have to remember that the next time you're trying to get your new washing machine into place using that same technique.
Besides that specific movement, Aku Aku could also mean a personal spritual guide. With that another funny thought occurs: if your personal spiritual guide is willing to co-operate, you could very well Aku Aku your Aku Aku. Just try to picture that!
Well, that's quite enough foolishness for now. Any which way you look at it, Aku Aku is very much entwined with Polynesian culture and with the moai indeed. On top of that, I think that the frase Aku Aku looks much nicer on a button, instead of just maoi. From a graphic point of view, that is.

All of the above buttons are available on
On this website you can find a lot of other buttons and goodies made by different artists, illustrators and graphic designers. I partically like these buttons made by Erik Kriek:

....and I'm quite charmed by this button made by Leendert Masselink. It could have been a trademark character of an orange juice softdrink from the mid-twentieth century, wouldn't you agree?

If you would like to purchase any of these buttons please visit the website of Buzzworks.
Even if not any of these buttons are to your liking, this site is still worth a visit, because the variety of artists is quite impressive and their styles differ ever so much. It's almost impossible not to find anything that'll suit your taste. And the prices are very affordable too!

woensdag 20 oktober 2010

Prints for sale

A little while ago I've made some high quality prints in a limited edition. I've already sold quite a few, but if you would like to decorate your wall with a "Pieter M. Dorrenboom", here's your chance, because I've still got some prints left.

As you can see below, there are four different prints, each in an edition of 15 copies only. The size of a print is A4 (29,7 cm x 21 cm). You can buy a print for 35 euro. If you would like to purchase all four prints, I'll give you a 10% discount. You'll pay 126 euro instead of 140. "Kan je weer mooi een ijsje van kopen", as we would say in the Netherlands, which means something like "That will give you some change to buy yourself an ice cream". However, there are only two complete sets left. So if you're interested in buying a set of prints, I would like to advise you not to dilly-dally for too long.

As you may have noticed, I don't have a webshop on my site. If you should want to buy a print, please contact me.

Please note that the shipment costs are not included in the above mentioned prices. I will have to check what the shipment costs will be for you, depending on which country you live in.

woensdag 15 september 2010

What's cooking? part 3

Have you ever heard of a Super-Cocotte? I must admit that, until now, neither did I. Although I'm sure the Super-Cocette will bring back lots of cherished memories for quite a few people, I can honestly say I never came across one in real life.
I bet you're really wondering now what I'm blabbering about . . . . . . let me help you out; a Super-Cocette is a pressure cooker, manufactured by SEB (Société d'Emboutissage de Bourgogne), the company that also published the cookery book "Dit is de goede keuken..." in 1961 (Dutch edition).
I don't know quite how to translate "Dit is de goede keuken" in English. However, SEB also published an English edition, as well as one in French, German, Spanish and Portuguese. So the answer to the correct translation of the title is standing on someone's bookshelf somewhere.

SEB's cookery book has got a lot to offer. It contains detailed instructions how to use the Super-Cocotte, some nice adverts for products manufactured by SEB, some pictures of the SEB factory where the Super-Cocotte is made (one every 12 seconds!) and of course lots and lots of illustrations.
The artists credited for the illustrations are "de Heren Lourdais, Vogel, Niemann van het Volk-Studio te Parijs". Well, that's quite something, three different illustrators! Alas, not any clue is given as to who made which illustration and with no first names or even first name initials given, there's not much to go on to do some research. I couldn't find anything about the Volk-Studio in Paris either.

It's all a bit vague and I think that's a pity, because when I see an illustrator I like, I'm always curious what other work he or she might have done.
Such as the case may be, I guess we have to enjoy these very decorative illustrations just for what they are. Nothing wrong with that, mind you.

I've also got a second edition of the Super-Cocotte cookery book, published in 1963. Exept for the cover and slightly different photographs, the contents of the book are for the most part the same as the first edition. However, the second edition has some extra illustrations, like the ones here on the left and the right. That's a swell bonus if you like little pieces of artwork like these.

woensdag 11 augustus 2010

What's cooking? part 2

"There's only one thing in life worse than being almost forgotten and that's being completely forgotten" to misquote the great Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde.
Such fate seems to have fallen upon Anton Heijn, who illustrated the cookery pocket book "Fijne Hapjes van Margriet" (Delicate Titbits by Margriet) in 1964. Margriet is the same women's magazine I wrote about in What's cooking? part 1.
The illustrations in this book are rather good. I quite like Anton Heijn's decorative style with that slight cubistic twist so typical of the mid twentieth century.
Anton Heijn's illustrations are of such quality and graphic beauty that it's most unlikely that his work was only published in "Fijne Hapjes". Yet, searching the internet, I could find no reference to him other than this cookery book.
And that, my dear friends, is not good. Not good at all! Although there's no doubt other work by Anton Heijn must have been published somewhere, it somehow has fallen into oblivion.
Of course I will keep my eyes and ears open for any information about the elusive Mister Heijn and his work. However, should you happen to know anything, I will be glad to hear from you.

dinsdag 3 augustus 2010

What's cooking? part 1

I've got quite a few cookery books. Not because of I'm so fond of cooking. Au contraire, dear blogreaders! No, it's because of the illustrations in those books.
I do have to say that I'm not a real cookery book collector. I don't go to auctions or search eBay hoping to acquire rare and undoubtedly very expensive editions.
In fact, most of the books that are on my shelf were once the priced possession of my dear late mother. Other books I just happened to find in second hand stores, not paying more than a few pennies. Coincidentally all the books are Dutch and not so coincidentally all from the 1950s and '60s.
Although not collectors items, these cookery books of mine are crammed with the most beautiful illustrations and I think they deserve to be brought back from oblivian. What better way than to use this weblog to do some good work?

The first cookery book illustrations I would like to bring to your attention are by the hand of I. Spreekmeester.

Although almost forgotten nowadays, Isidore Leonard - a.k.a. Ies - Spreekmeester was a well respected Dutch illustrator in his time. He made numerous illustrations during his lifetime (1914 - 2000), but I remember him best for the four Little Golden Books (Dutch edition) of "de Vier Kleurpotloden" ( the Four Colour Pencils) he made in the early 1970s. And of course the cookery book which is this blog's topic.
The Margriet cookery book illustrated by I. Spreekmeester must have been part of many Dutch households in the middle of the last century. Margriet is a women's magazine that has been around since 1938. For those not familiar with the Dutch language; Margriet is a girl's name as well as the flower known as daisy, which also happens to be an English first name. Now isn't that a coincidence!?

The magazine also published a variety of cookery books. I don't know exactly when the first edition of the book with Spreekmeester's illustrations was published. I've got the thirteenth edition from 1962. Searching the internet, the earliest edition I could find is from 1955, but I'm not to sure about that being the real first publication.

It strikes me that the illustrations by I. Spreekmeester are very witty and imaginative, sometimes a little weird and even a bit gruesome. That's remarkable considering that Margriet has always been, with all respect, a bit fuddy-duddy. The illustrations didn't seem to bother the Dutch mid-century's housewife though. I guess she could appreciate a little bit of fun whilst looking up a recipe for daily supper.

dinsdag 27 juli 2010

Opa's iPod

One of the recent jobs I worked on was making an image for a poster for an exhibition in a museum called De Dubbelde Palmboom.

De Dubbelde Palmboom is a museum especially for children. It's situated in an old warehouse in Delfshaven, a small harbour in the city of Rotterdam. This might be of special interest to those descended from the Pilgrim Fathers. Delfshaven was actually the starting point of the voyage of the Pilgrims to the New World. They set sail to Southampton on board of the Speedwell in 1620. In Southampton they boarded on the Mayflower and the rest of the story is all too well known.
Well, that's enough history class for now!
The exhibition in De Dubbelde Palmboom is called Opa's iPod (Grandad's iPod) and is all about apparatus which are familiar to today's grandparents, but most likely unknown to the youth. This exhibition give these ignorent young brats the oppurtunity to observe and even experience those wonderful devices of yesteryear.
The children can play with the first Atari computergames, listen to the radio (with broadcasts dating from various decades), send morse codes and they can even have a go at an old fashioned telephone switchboard.
There's also a grammophone player on which the youngsters can spin some records, although I have to say - being a passionate record collector myself - the record collection of the museum is not much to go for. I guess that won't bother the youth of today in the least though.
Unnecessary to say that the exhibition will be lots of fun for kids and probably their parents and grandparents too.

I think it's also great fun to combine a drawing with a photograph and so I was very pleased the museum asked me to do something like that for the exhibition. These pictures are going to be used for promotional purposes.

That's it for now, dear blogfriends. Next time something quite different!